Like it or not, the world is the arena in which we form our spirituality. Even the choice to withdraw from it is a decision about how we live in it. If the sources of distraction: the world, the flesh, and the devil are unavoidable in this life, then adjusting our lives to co-existence with them is how we form our spiritual life.
If we are to work out our spirituality in this humanly shaped world we must learn the art of being in it but not being of it. It is important that we constantly be aware that we are “in passage;” that our lives here are transitory yet, somehow, necessary. Between the points of birth and death we spiritually “become.” The place where we do this “becoming” is here: with our parents, our friends, our spouses, our enemies, at home, at school, at work, at play, in study, in leisure, in prayer, in reflection, in sadness, in joy, in sickness, in hard times, in every aspect of the human condition – this is where we “become,” this is where our spirituality flourishes or flounders. Within this mortal framework we cannot just “be” – yet to simply “be” in the present moment is, ultimately, that for which we strive. That kind of being is not mortal. It’s divine! But it is through our mortality that we grind our way toward that ideal.
The way we cope with our “arena” is by learning to transcend it. This is how we can be in the world but not of it. Since our flawed humanity dictates that our world revolves around us, the most important items we must learn to transcend are our “selves” and our senses. When we arrive at the point where we can get by the “tangible illusions” of our senses and make a connection with the ground of our being, we “become.” What we see, hear, touch, taste, or smell has a strong tendency to cement our spiritual feet to the distractions of the world and keep us from “becoming.”
To be contemplative, I think, means to practice transcending the senses and the self, even if in temporary “bursts.” Sustaining such “out-of-this-world” moments takes much practice. There will always be something of this world that pulls us back from these moments to once again make us aware that it defines the boundaries of our arena herein to which we are unavoidably anchored.